Friday, January 13, 2012

Generalizations and Labels

I love school.  I suppose anyone who knows me, knows that’s true.  I love to think.  In fact, I think way to much.  I have to analyze everything from every perspective.  Sometimes I wish I could just accept something, not worry about it, and go on. 

I am like Mary I guess.  You know, Mary and Martha?  How many sermons have you heard on that one? They usually go like this – Mary was “worshipping” at Jesus feet – she was a worshipper.  Martha on the other hand was worried about kitchen duties and hospitality.  We should be like Mary.  Amen.

No I’m not this extravagant worshiper that can’t serve a meal.  Neither was Mary.  Mary was a student, a thinker, just like me.  Mary was “listening to the words of Jesus.”  I see her hearing him talk.  Sitting with the men (a no-no?) and taking in every word.  Martha, who always gets a bad rap in these sermons, was practicing Eastern hospitality.  She was fulfilling a very important role. 

Why all this talk of Mary and Martha and school?  Because I’ve been thinking.  I’ve been mulling something over that has come up in one of my classes.  Like Mary, I have listened to the discussion.  I have read the material.  I am now thinking something through.

I stuck my neck out yesterday and mentioned what I was thinking.  So far, no guillotine has found my neck.  I tend to think that every time I open my mouth someone is going to say I think I’m a “know-it all.”  Truth be told, on this issue, I probably am the closest to a “know-it all.”  That doesn’t mean I don’t respect other opinions, I’m just saying that it is hard to express what I know, what I really know very well, because I fear the backlash.

We are talking about “exceptionalities.”  That is the new term for talking about disability issues in the workplace.  It’s as bad a term as any of the others, but it’s the latest.  We are all discussing how we should include PWD (the acronym for people with disabilities).  I don’t like it.  It’s not the concept I don’t like, it’s the acronym and all it seems to represent.

I was an advocate for persons (the word I prefer over people because people sounds like – you know “THOSE people”) with disabilities for many years.  I trained on the state and national level on inclusion, etc.  I walked the difficult path of incorporating persons with disabilities of any age into a multipurpose senior center.  Talk about difficult, you have NO idea…  It taught me a lot.  It taught me to look at a person with a disability not by their label, but by their humanity.  Throwing around acronyms and labels really bothers me.  It’s like rubbing your nails on the chalk board.

As I thought about it this morning, I thought of Jesus and Mary.  I wonder if Jesus repeated the greatest commandment as Mary intently listened:   
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  Mathew 27:37-39
Notice, Jesus didn’t say love your “neighborhood.”  He didn’t lump all people into one group or another.  He just said, love your neighbor.  To love your neighbor, to love your neighbor, you need to know them.  You need to meet them as a fellow human being who journeys through life with you.  They may not be the “same” as you – they may be a different race, a different religion, they may have a disability, we could go on and on with ways we generalize and classify people.  

But that’s NOT what Jesus said, He simply said Neighbor.  Love your neighbor, that person who you rub elbows with, no qualifications, no words that say they have to be like you, just love your neighbor – a person as a person.  Then love them the way you love yourself. 
I’ll be spending the whole semester learning about diversity – personally I think if we just followed the greatest commandment in all areas of life, we’d do just fine.

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